PTSD and Addiction

ptsd

PTSD, Addiction, and Understanding Dual-Diagnosis

Let’s begin by understanding what each of these terms means. PTSD is a disorder in which an individual experiences severe emotional distress after a traumatic experience. The traumatic experience varies based on the individual. Somebody suffering from PTSD can be a child that faced abuse or a soldier that witnessed terrible sights during deployment.

Addiction can be defined by an intense dependence on a substance like drugs or alcohol. This dependence will take over one’s life, often becoming a daily habit. Addiction is the most severe form of substance abuse. 

Dual-diagnosis is when we put a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder together. Oftentimes, these two coincide. 

If you’re struggling with PTSD, an addiction may consequently also occur if the initial disorder isn’t dealt with healthily. On the other hand, one may develop mental health issues after becoming addicted to a substance.

PTSD

PTSD is a condition in which an individual experiences severe emotional distress after witnessing or being engaged in a traumatic event. Any physical or psychological trauma that leaves the individual feeling powerless and out of control may lead to PTSD.

Common causes of the condition include, but are not limited to:

  • Military combat
  • Violent assault
  • Natural disasters
  • Sexual assault
  • Childhood abuse

These traumatic events are often pushed to the side. Since the individual never fully works through them, they may consequently get flashbacks as a result. For example, a soldier who witnessed his friend pass away in battle, but had to put up a strong front during his or her deployment. In other cases, a child who was sexually abused by an older relative might grow up living with intrusive feelings of helplessness and revenge.

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD will vary based on the individual. A few of the general symptoms include:

  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating – including simple or everyday tasks
  • Being jumpy or easily startled
  • Self-destructive behavior or recklessness
  • Avoiding triggers and situations that remind you of the trauma
  • Feeling physically numb or detached from your body
  • Inability to express affection

Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease. Not only does it affect the body, but the brain as well. It also severely affects families, relationships, schools, workplaces, and communities. Addiction can be effectively prevented, treated and managed by healthcare professionals in combination with a strong support system.

The severity of substance problems varies. It can range from mild to moderate to severe. Drug or alcohol abuse is a mild substance problem, defined by having two or three symptoms of addiction. 

People who abuse drugs or alcohol can experience serious consequences such as accidents, overdoses, crime, school problems, violence, and suicide. Substance abusers may have severe issues, but those issues don’t necessarily have to progress into an addiction. 

The most severe form of addiction is a physical and chronic disease. Intensive, long-term treatment is necessary to achieve sober recovery. Similar to other serious diseases, people with severe addiction get increasingly sick over time. They can also develop other illnesses as a result of the disease, which can result in fatal consequences. 

Symptoms of Addiction

To be diagnosed as having an addiction, not all symptoms must be present. Each individual is unique as are their symptoms. These are signs which occur across many, but not necessarily all, addictions. 

Generally speaking, these are some of the most common symptoms of addiction:

  • Financially unpredictable – such as having large amounts of cash at times but no money at all at other times
  • Significant changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd phone conversations
  • Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency
  • Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, etc.
  • “Stashes” of drugs, often in small plastic, paper or foil packages
  • Tolerance – increasingly partaking in addictive behavior to receive the desired effect
  • Extreme mood changes – happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc
  • Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of the day or night

Dual-Diagnosis

Co-occurring conditions are when patients experience a mental health condition alongside an addiction. There are two diagnoses at hand here. Addiction often has underlying roots such as emotional pain. These roots can be depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

Perhaps the addict had a mental health illness, to begin with, or maybe it developed over time. In either case, it should never be taken lightly. That’s where dual-diagnosis comes in. 

Dual Diagnosis: What if I Have a Co-Occurring Condition?

If you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD and addiction, then you may have a co-occurring condition. If this is the case, then your treatment will be tailored as such. In other words, your treatment plan may include detox and weekly therapy. Perhaps therapy will be centered around how your mental health issues and substance abuse habits connect.

Each individual is different so their personalized plan will vary. PTSD and addiction must be taken seriously. At Granite Mountain Behavioral Health, we make sure to factor in all aspects of this. We’ll help you tackle PTSD and addiction so you could live a happier, sober life.

What Types of Therapy Will I Encounter In Treatment?

There are many different forms of therapy available to our patients. Treatment will vary for PTSD and addiction, but both will be combined in a plan. Each tackles its own set of problems that the patient is experiencing. Below are some of the therapies we provide:

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is centered around one-on-one sessions with the patient. The patient will have access to an experienced therapist that’ll help them talk through their PTSD and addiction issues. What each session focuses on depends on the patient and their unique situation. 

Family Therapy

These sessions incorporate therapy with anyone close to the patient such as a spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, etc. Family therapy may be necessary if the PTSD or addiction are affecting more than just you. We would like to emphasize that the decision to bring another member into therapy is completely up to them. With the patient’s permission, these sessions may take place in person or online. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy is all about building a foundation of support for each patient. Struggling with PTSD and addiction isn’t easy. Peer-to-peer support is crucial during this time. These sessions will include multiple patients at a time. 

You can talk about anything that’s on your mind and share your feelings with those who can relate. Sometimes rehab can seem like a lonely journey. However, we assure you that group therapy will give you the support you need.

A Comprehensive Treatment Plan for PTSD and Addiction

Integrative treatment addresses the root causes and symptoms of mental illness. It also addresses how a person’s life and choices contribute to their substance abuse issues. PTSD and addiction are both factored in when the treatment plan is developed.

Treatment options include various types of therapy, as well as medical care and changes in lifestyle. Treatment typically incorporates:

  • Medical detox. Withdrawal symptoms are not only difficult to manage alone, but they can also have fatal consequences. It is crucial to undergo a medical detox under careful supervision. A detox will help rid your body of toxins accumulated through substance abuse.
  • Assessment. A full psychological assessment ensures that the diagnosis of the patient is thorough and accurate. 
  • Treatment. A tailored recovery plan is best for co-occurring disorders involving PTSD and addiction. A treatment plan will give an in-depth view of what needs to be addressed for the patient to have a successful recovery.
  • Aftercare. An aftercare program ensures long-term sobriety and a positive mental health state. 

Residential Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Another name for residential treatment is inpatient treatment or inpatient rehabilitation. Clients will live at the facility with an overnight plan. Individuals will spend most of their time on recovery activities such as therapy, support groups, and medical care when necessary. 

These programs are advantageous for people with a dual-diagnosis. They offer a respite from worries, distractions, and temptations.

Outpatient Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Attentive and high-level care is crucial for those with a dual-diagnosis. When it comes to those who need a slightly less involved level of care, outpatient treatment programs are ideal. PTSD and addiction can be worked through in a variety of different settings. To reiterate, treatment plans will always depend on the person. 

There are a few types of outpatient programs. A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is one type that works for a lot of people. The schedule of a PHP consists of five or more days a week at our facility. These programs are similar to residential options, but clients live at home or a sober-living home.

Begin Your PTSD, Addiction and/or Dual-Diagnosis Recovery Journey Today

No matter what place you’re in, progress can be made. PTSD and addiction are obstacles that you or a loved one can overcome. The right facility will not just treat your disease, they’ll treat you as a whole person. At Granite Mountain Behavioral Health, we’re a family that’s in this together!

If you or a loved one is ready to start the road to recovery, you can contact us here. You can also call us at (877) 389-0412 and talk to one of our PTSD and addiction experts. Remember, we’re here for any questions, comments or concerns you may have. We’re waiting for your call!

Article Reviewed by Gregory Struve

Gregory StruveGreg received a Master’s in Counseling from the Adler Graduate School in 2006. He trained at one of the top trauma and anxiety treatment centers in the world until 2008, when he became a faculty member at Grand Canyon University. From 2011 to 2016 he directed a program that lead the field in terms of innovative treatment of anxiety and trauma. During that time he even made several appearances on A&E’s intervention.